Batavia man gets other National Grid customers’ bills

Mark Gutman/Daily News The National Grid Batavia location at 5100 E. Main St. Rd. National Grid is investigating the reason emails with several customers’ bills and information were sent to a Batavia couple.

Robert Rickner of Batavia said at around 7 a.m. Friday, he found about 20 emails from National Grid with other people’s bills and information such as addresses, amounts due and account numbers. Three more emails came in the afternoon.

A National Grid spokesman said that afternoon that the company was investigating the cause and to stop more from being sent.

“When I first opened the emails, I got ‘Dear (random person’s name). You’re bill’s attached ...’ I have no idea who they are,” Rickner said Friday morning. “There were 20 different customer accounts that were emailed to us in 20 separate emails.”

Rickner said his wife, Amanda, immediately called National Grid and talked to an employee.

“When she (Amanda Rickner) got a hold of somebody after their automated system ... she first told them we received these emails, There was a lot of concern expressed by my wife to National Grid, because this is kind of a big deal, this information being out there.” Rickner said. “He expressed quite a bit of sorrow. He was apologetic. We asked if our account had been compromised.”

Rickner said he called a National Grid customer whose information was in one of the emails from the company. He said he told the Le Roy resident, “Hey, we have an email with your account.”

He said Friday morning that the Le Roy resident hadn’t called him back, but that he hoped the man would. Rickner said the people in the emails he got should have a right to know what happened.

“I feel as though if somebody were to receive my account, I hope to God they would contact me and let me know,” he said.

“I believe most of these addresses (were) out of Genesee County,” he said, referring to the emails he saw Friday morning. “They should most likely call National Grid, check these accounts.”

The Batavia resident said he’s not sure whether his and Amanda’s National Grid account was compromised.

“I kind of feel like it might be safe, but part of me still feels like it could be compromised in one way or another,” he said.

Patrick Stella, National Grid media representative in Albany, said around 4:45 p.m. Friday in an email to The Daily News, “Today, National Grid received a call from a customer in Batavia who received several e-mails containing basic information from other customer accounts that is not typically shared. National Grid is investigating the issue and has successfully stopped additional e-mails of this type from going to this customer.

“At this time, we do not have a definitive cause to determine how this specific customer received these e-mails. We do believe this is an individual incident and not a systemic issue affecting any other customers,” Stella said in the email. “We will continue to investigate the cause and make the needed corrections to try and avoid this situation from happening in the future. In this incident, it is important to note that the customer did the right thing by notifying National Grid of the issue quickly. We urge customers who receive suspicious e-mails or other communications of a questionable nature to contact National Grid directly so we can address the issue quickly.”

Several minutes later, Stella emailed again to say, “This customer contacted us again. They are continuing to receive e-mails this afternoon. Looks like we will need to investigate further ... We are continuing to investigate the cause and stop further e-mails.”

Rickner said during the call Friday with National Grid, the employee said a lock would be put on the account.

“The lock would make sure we are the only people who could access our account. They said they’re going to assign a group to go through every account and make sure the accounts are as they should be,” he said.

The Rickners have been National Grid customers at their current residence since January, when they moved there, but Robert Rickner said he’s been a Grid customer pretty much his whole life.

“This is the first time anything like this has happened. We’ve had billing issues before, but nothing major like this,” he said.

The Grid employee who talked to Amanda Rickner gave reassurances that the Rickners’ account was safe, but Robert said he doesn’t know how much he trusts that.

“I’m going to keep a close eye on our account from here on out,” he said. “I want people to know that this happened and to keep track of their accounts.”

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